What did you have for breakfast the day before yesterday? Do you remember? And aside from what you actually ate, how did you actually eat it? Or were you so rushed to get your day started that you skipped breakfast on that day all together?
Too often in our multitasking-oriented society, we rob ourselves of the quiet moments in life that we not only deserve but require. And for those of us with a dieter’s mentality, this can be especially destructive. Fact is, if we ate more mindfully, many of us wouldn’t even need an actual diet plan to lose excess weight and feel better about ourselves and our bodies in the present moment.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking diet plans all together. When I weighed over 450 pounds, I was so out of touch with healthy eating (as were my body’s “hungry” or “full” sensors), that I required an actual plan (based on sound nutrition and pure, clean eating) to head in the right direction (in my case, down the scale). But my weight loss success (dropping more than 250 pounds within a year’s period without fad dieting, pills or surgery) came more from mindful eating than it did a so-called diet.
Learning to pay attention to what tasted good (sans additives, preservatives and other potentially harmful chemicals) and paying heed to how my body felt after a meal, led me to being more mindful about almost every aspect of my life — from exercise to walking my dog to even being more present when talking to someone on the phone (e.g., no more checking facebook on my smartphone while on a phone call, listening to my mother-in-law tell me how a recent doctor’s appointment went).
Me. In the now. And being aware of it. Crazy concept, right?
And yet mindfulness doesn’t have to be a mystery that we spend a lifetime trying to decipher. True mindfulness is simply about being fully present in the moment. That means being still and recognizing everything going on around us and being fully aware of it all.
Take a moment to stop reading this blog post, and just sit still (or stand still — reader’s choice). Feel the cushion of the chair beneath you? The comfort of the seat back? The hardwood floor underneath your shoes? Or maybe whatever you’re sitting or standing on isn’t so comfortable. You might be reading this while on a subway train. Or while standing in line. Or perhaps while lying down.
Notice the elements surrounding you at this moment. Is there a clock ticking? Is someone talking loudly nearby? Can you feel the heat of the sun? Or maybe a cool breeze? Whatever is going on around you, take note of it. Soak it in. It’s not bad. It’s not good. It simply is. And now you get a gold star for noticing what’s happening around you, being aware of your surroundings, and taking it all in.
Next, turn to your breathing. Are your breaths short and shallow, perhaps signaling that you’re anxious about something? Or are they soft and deep? Maybe your calm breathing is letting you know that you’re very confident, that life is good (even with all the many challenges you’re facing), and that you know you are enough, in this moment.
Let’s now take this fully aware mental state and apply it to our eating. All of our eating. That means being as mindful when we’re planning or preparing what we’re going to eat as when we’re sitting down to actually consume the food. (Yes, sitting down! Eating at the kitchen counter while on the go doesn’t often compliment being mindful.)
Too often the choices we make about food have less to do with what we’re really craving (whether regarding a specific food or even a portion size) and more about what is habitual. Our routines can turn us into zombies. And living life like The Walking Dead is no way to… Well… Live.
This is now. And since this moment is all we really have, we might as well choose to enjoy it — and all of life’s subsequent moments — fully. As we learn to embrace the now, we can allow ourselves to make choices about our food, our eating, and our self-acceptance that can literally transform life around us — and, perhaps, even transform our bodies in beautifully positive and healthy ways.
Photo Source: Existential Soft Rock
Those who know me will tell you I’m a big caffeine addict. Granted, I treat caffeine (in the form of coffee) with the same regard I treat all food and drink in my life: With moderation. But “Back in the day,” having coffee meant having a whole lotta cream and sugar with it. Actually, way back when (or weigh back when, as I like to say), I would drink coffee with artificial sweetener and artificial, nonfat creamer. The thought of consuming these totally unnatural, chemically altered substances make me shudder today.
As I learned more about health and nutrition, I gave those artificial substances up when drinking coffee. And I replaced them with real sugar (Sugar in the Raw was my choice) and real cream (Half N’ Half in this case). You might be surprised to read about the sugar and Half N’ Half. But based on how my body metabolized these more natural substances, I knew they were better for me than the artificial “fat and calorie free” crap (key word) that I’d been using up until then.
One. Small. Change.
But wait. There’s more.
Having succeeded with my “Small change, big reward” theory with the artificial sweetener and cream, there was a day I decided to take it one step further. Thus, I gave up the cream and sugar entirely and, instead, started to drink my coffee au natural (AKA “Black”). This took some getting used to because I like my coffee strong and bold. So the first couple sips of black coffee would elicit the kind of facial expressions that not even graduates of clown colleges could make.
But eventually? I got used the taste of black coffee. And – surprise, surprise – I even began to prefer the taste of black coffee. I liked how the flavor worked in tandem with my morning cereal or toast (never overwhelming the taste of breakfast and never being overly sweet like a milkshake). Another small change. Not to mention another big reward in that I had reduced my calorie intake by no longer having cream and sugar with my coffee.
For a time, I would allow myself to have cream and sugar on special occasions. At first only on weekends. Then only on special occasions (like my birthday). But eventually? I went all black coffee, all the time. And since then, I’ve never looked back. Although I do still occasionally make the ridiculous clown faces during the first, somewhat bitter sips. But I’ve learned to enjoy that moment for what it’s worth, figuring these ‘facial exercises’ might be burning up a few additional calories.
The great thing about small changes is that once you’ve successfully achieved them and made them part of your life, they will start to affect other decisions. For example, if I’m running around town and have to grab breakfast on the run, if I’m getting a black coffee I don’t want to completely negate that healthy choice by having a donut with it and instead will opt for a bran muffin or piece of fruit. Again, everything in moderation.
Now, I’m not telling you to join me on the black coffee bandwagon. But I’m am suggesting you look at different areas of your life and see where there might be room for one small change. Accomplishing that change could affect the rest of your life – and perhaps your health – in a positive, beautiful way.
Planning a small change? Or have an accomplished change to brag about? Do tell! I’m waiting over my cup of coffee with bated breath (and a promise not to react with a ‘clown face’).
Over a decade ago, around the time I’d lost over 250 pounds of excess weight and knew I wanted to keep it off forever, I swore off fast food. Sure, it’s cheap. But there’s a higher price to be paid in regard to our health. And this decision turned out to be one of the most positive and healthiest I’ve ever made.
On the subject of fast food (and focusing in on the McDonald’s fast food chain in particular), New York Times best-selling author Vani Hari (AKA “The Food Babe“) recently posted information for “…Everyone That Still Eats at McDonald’s (Even if they won’t admit it)” which features the chart you see here, detailing some concerning ingredients that fast food giant McDonald’s still uses in much of what they sell (and what so many people still consume).
For more information on each of these ingredients, click over to Food Babe’s post, which details what she calls “the worst 12 ingredients at McDonald’s that no one should be eating” — even noting that 8 of these ingredients aren’t even used at the McDonald’s in the United Kingdom. After reading this list, you might be wondering why you are still eating at McDonald’s (if you are), or perhaps, as Ms. Hari suggests, want to share this information with people you know who still eat there.
Are you still drinking soda on a daily basis? If so, you might want to check out this infographic, which details soda’s effects on your body. From affecting your body weight, to altering your brain chemical balance, to potential kidney stones… Soda can potentially be affecting these important body issues and functions and then some. Just recently, a new study found diet soda potentially leads to a higher ratio of belly fat in people who consume it as they age. And for even more information about ways that soda may be negatively affecting your health beyond the infographic below, click here.
Photo Source: DailyInfographic